Back in the 1980s and the 90s, education never pinched the pockets. Most of the time, parents never considered it a part of monthly expenditure, except when they had to pay a bulk amount during the beginning of a session or purchase uniform. However, the case is no longer the same now. Over the years, the schools have grown, the facilities have increased and so have the fee structure.
Today, students’ education is serious business and parents have to set aside a substantial amount every quarter. Having said that, there are many players who are treating education as a mere business and making huge profits out of it.
Recently, a committee of the Punjab and Haryana High Court was appointed to inquire into the profits made by private schools. The committee began their enquiry and focussed on one particular school. They were shocked at the findings. Despite earning crores in profit, the school had been constantly increasing the fees every year for the past three years. The hikes were not consistent either – in 2012-13 it was 23.41 percent, while in 2013-14 it was 10.19 percent.
The committee also found discrepancies in their book of accounts, where the actual profit was not recorded.
When one reads about such cases, one begins to question the fee structure in the schools and on what basis is it supposed to be raised. On several occasions, the schools raise the fees arbitrarily and the parents are at a loss to cope up with the burden. Changing school is not an option either for such parents because that again calls for additional expenditure by way of registration fees or donations that some schools charge. Moreover, changing schools may have an adverse impact on the child’s studies, where he or she has to adapt to a new environment altogether. No, changing schools on the basis of fee hike is definitely not a good idea and there is no guarantee that the new school may not hike its fees later.
Different fee structures
In such a scenario, what is the solution? Though a concrete solution may not be arrived, let us look at the different types of schools on the basis of fee structure.
First of all, we can roughly divide the schools into Government-aided and unaided schools. The Government-aided schools are those run by private parties but controlled by the Government. The rules and regulations followed by these schools are governed by Government norms. The unaided schools are solely run by private managements. Most of these private unaided schools are usually affiliated to the Government and to the boards like CBSE or ICSE. However, the fee structure in this case is followed as per the decision of the private parties. Apart from this, there are international schools, which are again run by private parties and follow the boards of other countries, meaning they do not follow the Indian boards. The fees here are totally dependent on the private parties and in most of the cases are towards the expensive side.
Following a set fee structure
Ideally, the Government-aided schools are to follow the fee structure as set by the Government. Here, it is normal for the fees to be different in different States. Meanwhile, private schools are meant to come up with their own fee structure. However, most of the time the schools do not follow a set pattern of fee structure, which is why if you randomly pick ten schools in a State, each one of them would have a different fee structure.
Reason behind the discrepancy
The reasons can be varied. Usually, the schools attribute the discrepancy in fees to the infrastructure they provide – laboratories, play ground, extra-curricular facilities, and the like. Another reason can be the quality of teachers and the education imparted, for which the schools may be sending their teachers for training and development sessions. Another aspect can be the national and global exposure that the children get via the school.
The parents are left to compare one school with the other before making their choice. Yet, there comes a point when the parents wish that the fee structure remained the same in all the schools. They feel this even more when one parent comes across another parent who is paying less for more facilities. Then the question that comes to the parent’s mind is that there is no way that the fee structure can be regulated.
Regulating fee structure
Recently, in Bangalore, the State Government submitted a proposal to regulate the fees in the private schools. If the proposal gets the nod, then private unaided schools that are affiliated to the State Government like the ICSE and CBSE will not be able to fix their fee structure as they desire. This move comes in the wake of a Karnataka High Court directive that had instructed the Department of Public Instruction to prepare a draft of the fee structure. The draft fee structure has been uploaded on the department’s website and is awaiting the schools’ feedback. As per the new structure, the fee may differ from schools under municipal corporations to schools in district or taluk to schools in rural areas.
Similarly, the Tamil Nadu Government has appointed a fee committee that will recommend fee structure for about 10,000 schools in the State. It has completed about 400 schools till now. In case the schools fail to follow the fee structure, there are very good chances that the schools can be de-recognized.
In Kolkata, about 5,500 Government-aided schools have been brought under the direct control of the State Government. This move has been triggered to bring all the schools under the Rashtriya Madhyamik Siksha Abhiyan (RMSA), which is a scheme sponsored by the Centre to universalise secondary education.
Earlier this year in Hyderabad, the authorities had come up with Government orders to regulate the fee structure in the schools. The order had an important clause, which said that the schools could zero down on the fee hike only through a committee consisting of parents and teachers. Another Government order had set up a maximum amount of fee and schools wanting to charge more than that had to submit a proposal to the regulatory board before deciding the same.
Efforts are on to regularise the fee structure in the Indian schools. However, how much of it will be implemented is what remains to be seen. For example, the Government orders released in Hyderabad is not being followed by the schools, it is believed and the schools still continue with the arbitrary fee hikes.
Having said this, the efforts should continue and each State must come up with at least a fee framework that can be implemented by both the aided Government schools and the unaided private schools. That is the least they can do for the parents. What irks the parents is the fact that there is no framework, which in turn leads the schools to decide their own fee structure over which the parents have absolutely no control.